China, Pakistan define blueprint for “new era” ties

Though China is an observer at SAARC, New Delhi is unlikely to countenance Beijing’s more active role in the South Asian grouping.

November 04, 2018 06:13 pm | Updated 06:13 pm IST - BEIJING

Chinese Premier with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting in Beijing.

Chinese Premier with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting in Beijing.

Without specifically referring to the Kashmir issue, China on Sunday backed Pakistan for trying to resolve “outstanding issues” with India through dialogue, and appeared to support Islamabad on two other key topics — the expansion of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and counter-terrorism.

In a joint statement , which is likely to raise eyebrows in New Delhi, China stated that it appreciated “Pakistan's quest for peace through dialogue, cooperation and negotiation, on the basis of mutual respect and equality, and supports Pakistan's efforts for improvement of Pakistan-India relations and for settlement of outstanding disputes between the two countries.”

The statement further added that, “Pakistan supported active participation of China at the platform of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation”. Though China is an observer at SAARC, New Delhi is unlikely to countenance Beijing’s more active role in the South Asian grouping.

The statement, issued at the end of the Beijing leg of Pakstain Prime Minister Imran Khan, also veered closer to Pakistan’s position on counter-terrorism and NSG, whose subtext was apparent — a UN designation of Masood Azhar, head of the Pakistan based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) as an international terrorist, and India’s membership in an expanded Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Without specifically referring to the controversy over Azhar’s designation as a terrorist by the Security Council’s 1267 sanctions committee, where China has been a major holdout preventing a consensus, the statement “underscored the need for all States to avoid politicisation of the UN Sanctions regime and the work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)”. Pakistan has been grey listed and put on notice by FATF — an organisation for countering international terror funding.

The two countries also said they were not yet ready to join a global counter-terror treaty, pointing out that a “consensus” should be forged on the text of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism CCIT) first. India had proposed CCIT in 1996, and its advocacy for the convention has grown stronger after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, originating from Pakistan.

China also supported Pakistan on nuclear non-proliferation in the statement, spotlighting that it “appreciates and supports steps taken by Pakistan for strengthening the global non-proliferation regime”.

Stopping short of advocating Pakistan's membership, the statement said that “China supports Pakistan's engagement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group and welcomes its adherence of NSG Guidelines”. China has so far objected to India’s formal membership of the NSG, which has become a major point of friction between New Delhi and Beijing.

Elsewhere in the statement, China lauded Pakistan’s role in becalming strife-torn Xinjiang, a region, which is central to President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“The Pakistani side reaffirmed its support to the Chinese side in safeguarding its sovereignty and security, and combating separatism, terrorism and extremism including East Turkistan Islamic Movement,” the statement said, referring to ETIM-- a separatist movement with nodes in Xinjiang. Beijing and Islamabad in the statement also slated their intent to “enhance cooperation between neighbouring regions,” in the transportation, trade and energy spheres.

The city of Kashgar in Xinjiang is also the starting point of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which was one of the focal topics in the statement.

The two sides slammed “the growing negative propaganda against CPEC” and “expressed determination to safeguard the CPEC projects from all threats”.

They reaffirmed “their complete consensus on the future trajectory of the CPEC, timely completion of its on-going projects and joint efforts for realisation of its full potential with a focus on socio-economic development, job creation and livelihoods and accelerating cooperation in industrial development, industrial parks and agriculture”. The CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) will meet before the year-end “to explore new areas of cooperation”. A working group on socio-economic development will to assist with livelihood projects in Pakistan.

China and Pakistan also agreed to shore up their military ties by maintaining high-level visits and exchanges at various levels between relevant departments of the two armed forces, and pledged to “deepen cooperation in areas such as military exercises, training cooperation, personnel exchanges, and equipment and technology cooperation”.

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